As a younger woman, I have had my “Margo” moment. I have had my “Grace” moment too, where I didn’t have to hate myself so much the next day and could just focus on what a prick he was. Aziz’s date got away…but was it from him?
The curse of being a vulnerable woman in a sexual setting befalls any dame who was raised on this perpetuated myth: you are less than a man. This lie raised me from the time I was a little girl; stuffing my Barbie into tiny pink stilettos so she could get Ken’s attention; I’m 8 and impressionable, idolizing Jessica Rabbit in her provocative red dress, displaying her only real power over man, a sexy bod; I’m worshipping Han Solo as he grabs himself a mouth full of Leia whenever the mood strikes him. Later in school, the lessons on US government and US history confirmed what I was starting to sense: parts of women were valuable; as a whole, we held less worth. The rights and stories of our people described as only “men” disregarded the potential for “women” to feel equal and to have a voice; as if words don’t have power.
No, in my opinion, “Grace” didn’t get away from Aziz; she got away from that huge, ugly, universally relatable monster that women are just beginning to identify: ORDASA… or, obligated reciprocity during a sexual advance. That’s a fucking mouthful (no pun intended Grace… sorry not sorry because, humor). Unfortunately, this topic has not been opened for discussion. Defining the girl that got away as something other than a “tease” or a “slut that won’t put out” is still new to us. Yes, in case you’ve forgotten high school, the girls are just as mean as the boys. I don’t ever recall one of the guys being called a slut, and if he was, it wasn’t derogatory.
So who is Grace? An attention seeker? A girl gleaning power from another’s fame, or worse...a confident female with a healthy sex life? This probably really pretty girl, who was holding out until maybe the second date, went through a yucky experience but continued allowing a lot to happen. And that would have been fine. But now she is talking about it. Unfortunately, the focus is on what Aziz was doing (badly and probably not soft enough) because we can’t wrap our heads around the idea (Grace included maybe) that this time it’s a story about a woman who chose not to relent when penetration was repeatedly presented. Insert BBC birds of paradise video here.
She vocalized the challenge that we as women come up against; to put-out even when we don’t want to. Because as educated and as feminist as we strive to be, in the dark, in a sexual embrace, we have already sealed the deal. It’s all in, otherwise, a stigma of gargantuan proportions is going to fall from the height of man and squish you; you don’t have to go all the way to be a slut, all you have to do is hurt his ego. The fear of criticism or retaliation to follow, that’s where the submission comes in.
I hear those who are saying that “Grace” shouldn’t be airing this encounter for all to hear, and I get it; we don’t talk about this. It wasn’t rape. It wasn’t violent or physically aggressive. It definitely wasn’t sexy or sensual… but that’s also not a crime, and so what’s the actual story here…?
It’s a woman walking away; to some, an unworthy story: nothing happened. Only the #metoo movement has not only exposed the vulgarity that powerful men thrust at women, it has peeled back a curtain on women’s sexuality. We are identifying the very common skeletons in our own closets. ORDASA is one of those shameful things we have sought to hide, thinking we were alone in our fears to walk away. But we aren’t alone. Having unwanted sex as a woman is not unique. Someone who's fended off this unwanted sex and has given it a platform, for other women to identify the problem and discuss solutions; that is unique.
We are the ones who will learn and grow from this experience. Aziz and the like can change too; read some “what women like” self-help books or something. But ultimately this particular lesson is for women. You can want sex, you can stop wanting sex, and you can leave; all on the same date. Put it to practice. Preach it. Make it a norm for a generation of girls who will someday read Roupenian’s brilliant short story Cat Person, and hopefully find zero of it relatable.